SPRINGHILL - As his team prepares to leave for Newfoundland and the Don Johnson Cup, Cumberland County Cool Blues coach Dave Hyatt understands the first game of the tournament may be the toughest.
"We know the P.E.I. team will be strong. They have a good league over there and they'll have a very competitive team," Hyatt said of the Sherwood-Parkdale Falcons, the team the Blues open the Atlantic Junior B Hockey Championship Tournament in Bay Roberts, N.L. next Wednesday. "We've played a number of games against teams from that league and while we haven't seen Sherwood, we played the team they beat in the final."
The Blues will hold their final on-ice session at the Richard Calder Arena today before heading out early Tuesday morning. The squad will have a short practice after arriving in Bay Roberts Tuesday night before opening early Wednesday against the Falcons.
Sherwood-Parkdale won the IJHL championship in six games last week over the Kensington Vipers, who won three consecutive league titles and were in Springhill two years ago for the Atlantics.
Hyatt doesn't know much about them other than what he has been able to garner from the Internet and media reports of the IJHL playoffs. He does plan to talk to Amherst native and former Blues forward Shawn McManaman, who played in Kensington this year while attending Holland College.
"If they beat Kensington they are a very capable team," he said. "They'll probably be the biggest competition we've seen so far, but one of the advantages we have is that we play in a very strong league. That should have us very prepared."
The three other teams in the tournament are all from the host province including Conception Bay North (home of the host club and Blues' forward Cody Roach), St. John's and the Central Newfoundland Cataracts, based in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Hyatt doesn't know a lot about the Newfoundland squads other than what he has gathered from his Newfoundland players and their parents. However, knowing St. John's won the provincial championship last week over the Cataracts he knows both clubs will be strong.
The team did get a surprise boost on Wednesday in the form of $2,000 from the province, presented by Premier Rodney MacDonald, who played two seasons with the Port Hawkesbury Strait Pirates, during a short meeting with the players.
The Blues also held a skills competition on Tuesday following a parade and community skate. David Burke won the fastest skater competition over Jordie Shaw while Nathan Lavigne was the most accurate shooter over Matt Noiles and Cody Roach won the showdown competition.